Monday, 31 March 2014

Seville & blood orange marmalade

There is a plethora of jams, jellies and marmalades popular in Russia which are virtually unknown in the UK. Yet the Seville orange marmalade which seems to be so quintessentially British is not well known in my homeland. I tried it for the first time about 18 years ago, when I arrived to Canterbury as a British Council student. It must have been a humble supermarket fodder, and I wasn't much impressed. Since then, I have discovered some marvellous jam-making brands and have also learnt how to make my own Seville orange marmalade.
The story goes that the Seville orange marmalade was invented in the early 18C, when a Spanish ship with a cargo of Seville oranges found refuge in Dundee. The oranges were snapped for pennies by the local merchant James Keiller, and his wife turned them into a novelty preserve.

There are many recipe for Seville orange marmalade online, the one that I used as my source of reference is the ultimate Seville orange marmalade by BBC Good Food. I have adapted it and used a mix of Seville and blood oranges, plus added some whisky.

Seville & Blood Orange Marmalade
800g Seville oranges
500g blood oranges
1 lemon (juice)
1kg preserving sugar
1.6kg granulated sugar
3tbsp whisky

Take a cooking pan big enough to take in all the oranges, pour about 2 litres of water to cover the fruit as well as the lemon juice. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer on low for 2 hours. At this point the peel will be easily pierced with a knife or fork. Once cooled to tepid, take the oranges out and let them drip via a colander over the pan to get all the juices.
Cut the oranges in half. Scoop the insides, pips and all (that gives a high pectin content to your preserve), add them to the pan with the water where the oranges were cooked. Bring the liquid to boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Then strain the liquid through a sieve, and using a wooden spoon, squash the orange bits through. Discard the remaining pips and pith.

Cut the peel with a sharp knife into strips of your preferable thickness, fine or wide. Add the sugar, both granulated and preserving to the pan of orange liquid and bring to boil, until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the shredded peel. Bring to boil again and bubble rapidly for 20-25 minutes until the setting point is reached.
Add the whisky if using. You might want to add a little blob of butter to get rid of the scum, stir it in gently. Let the marmalade cool a little (maybe 10 minutes), then pour it with a ladle into sterilised jam jars. Seal them while still hot.
If you don't have blood oranges, just use the Seville oranges, but the combination of two types of oranges makes it more exciting and the colour is beautiful.

Chris from Cooking Around the World has invited the bloggers to submit a recipe which represents Great Britain, and though I'm fashionably late, this is my entry for this linky.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The ABC of Cogges

After a week of rain, thunder and hailstones, we finally had our wishes for a sunny day granted. Eddie has been adamant we should go back to Cogges, and I knew Sasha would be very happy to have a ride on the zip wire again. To make the visit slightly more different, I told my guys we should do the ABC of Cogges.

Some letters were very easy to find, like A for apple tree, an abundance of Bs in barns and bunting, C in Cogges, church, cemetery and crosses.

Deer is for deer in the dining-room, E is for freshly laid eggs from Cogges own hens, F is for flowers.

G is for goats, H for hats, I for inside.

I have admired the rows of jams and jellies as well as the vintage jelly moulds on display.

K is for my favourite kitchen, L is for ladder.

M is for three magpies in a row, N is for nursery (though this photo was taken last year), O - for cute ball of fluff aka Orpingtons.

P is for ponies and pigs, Q is for a gnarled quince tree, R is for the river

S is for slides and swing, T is for teddy bear on the window, U is Up the bridge.

Though technically this Victoria is just outside Cogges, on a house on the way, I wanted to include it, plus we, the Varese who were visiting the manor farm.

W is for numerous windows, walls and woolen rugs. X was too tricky to find, so we cheated a bit with eXhibit. Y is a statue of a young farmer. And of course, Z is for our favourite zip wire.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 28 March 2014

Docrafts Creativity March Issue

The spring is in the air, and even Creativity magazine has had a spring clean. The creative editor and team have designed a new look magazine, with lots of brand new features and workshops as well as lots of projects. Long gone are the days when docrafts Creativity magazine was considered to be a less challenging magazine, especially in the papercrafting circles which favoured mixed media projects, altered art and ideas of the Stampington school.

Nowadays docrafts Creativity can easily compete with the other crafts magazines. The editor Tina Piper said in her editorial that she was tremendously proud of the new look Creativity magazine, and so she should.
I love the Gorjuss range of designs from Santoro, and was delighted to discover several projects with this ethereal magical range, including a wonderful project which features on the cover - an altered art box called The Fox.

What I love about the magazine is that it always comes with lovely freebies. March issue didn't disappoint. There was a pack of quality Gorjuss satin ribbons in its unmistakable unique colours.
There was an A6 Decoupage pack from Bellissima range, with sweet tags and papers in pastel colours.

Plus a CD with a collection of digital papers, characters and embellishments for all fans of Forever Friends range.
This issue would appeal to crafters of all levels. There are features like Back to classroom which give tutorials for beginners to advanced crafters. This issue gives advice on the heat embossing.
My own crafting has gone a bit rusty, so I enjoyed reading the mini-tutorial on how to make ribbon roses, and even made one for my own card.
I loved the vintage look of the House of Curiosities created by talented Trish Latimer, smiled at the cute Bunny Puppet designed by Jen Wyatt, admired Becky Dryer's magical Gorjuss projects.
Having read the magazine, I was inspired to make my own card.

My Gorjuss card

I used one of the papers from the Bellissima pack, as well as Gorjuss ribbons. I have a few Gorjuss stamps, and this cute girl with a paper chain is one of my favourites. I used watercolours and crayons to colour in the stamped image (and yes, I have added a nose and a mouth to make the girl happy). The ribbons and the cut out image are attached to the card with the double-sided sticky tape. Plus the words on the ribbon were written with Pebeo Pearl Touch.
A new April issue of docrafts Creativity should be already out, but if you missed March issue, you can still buy it online (for example, The Glitter Pot) or in the Docrafts stockists (I know our local crafts shop usually sells a few different issues, which is always handy). Of course, you can always subscribe and never miss an issue.

For more information and inspiration, check out DoCrafts.

Disclosure: I received March issue of Creativity magazine for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

New season opening at Cogges

Yippee, our favourite place is open for a new season. Everyone was invited to don their wellies as Cogges manor farm opened its gates to visitors last Saturday.
There were a lot of activities planned from food to gardening, from hat making to feeding the farm animals.
Eddie has been talking non-stop for days ahead, reminding us that we were going to Cogges. I had to curb his enthusiasm, saying "Only if it's not raining".
Thankfully, it was a lovely day, and we were ready to explore our favourite haunts.

We stopped by the cute pygmy goats, who looked askance at us, clearly expecting a treat. Hens and roosters have hardly noticed us, being busy doing what chickens do.
There were adorable baby pigs, rusty-coloured and spotty, munching with gusto on pieces of apples and broccoli which you could buy at the entrance. Last year's pigs Peppa and George aren't there any more.

It was very busy in the cafe. It felt like the world and his wife had the same idea as us, when they decided to visit the manor farm. The cafe was packed full, yet we managed to find a table and enjoy our snacks and drinks. Then off we went in search of outdoors adventures.
We didn't stop in the kitchen garden for too long. Boys were heading in the direction of the play area, slides and the zip wire.

My dream kitchen was as gorgeous as ever. The cook was making a new batch of Welsh cakes to greet the visitors, her assistant was enjoying her cuppa tea. I wanted to linger for longer and have a chat, but my guys were impatient.

Alas, the first floor of the house was closed to visitors. I would have loved to see the top rooms again. Hope they haven't been changed much, like the rooms on the ground floor. I was a bit saddened to see that the dining room has been rearranged to accommodate the crafts sessions like spinning etc. I just hope it will go back to the older interior look, with the table set for dinner and looking like it's only waiting for the family to return back.

The crafts sessions and dressing up room were buzzing with children. My guys aren't into Victorian costumes (I sighed with envy. I would have loved to dress up as a Victorian maid or lady).

The play area was a bit like a beehive. As always, it is a bit like a human Zoo, you observe all sorts of behaviour.

Eddie was in a jolly mood, whizzing down the slide so many times that we lost count. He climbed and balanced and was beaming from ear to ear.

Sasha was in his element. He was running all the way to Cogges like a ship at full sail. He loves the exhilarating ride and feels elated.

We got the season ticket, and plan to visit Cogges as often as we can.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Mum's the word: Mother's day gifts

As always with my gift suggestions, I lay no claims to encompassing all tastes and ideas. I merely write a list of things that I have bought and happy to recommend or like the sound of and would be a happy recipient of (not that it's going to happen, as my dear husband doesn't read my blog). I don't intentionally do it all as girlie but it reflects my personality and my tastes. So apologies to all Mummies who love cars and gaming gadgets, as I am not going to include these things on my list. If you read my blog, you know how much I love books, tea, chocolate, pretty china, my garden among other things...

Tins and jars are my not so secret passion. I collect tea tins and have lots of jars where I keep dried rose petals, pulses, tea, short pasta etc etc. If you share my passion for tea and jars, I found just the right bundle for you. Teapigs have obviously had me in mind when they released a Tea and Jar Bundle: a storage jar and 2 packs of tea (which is available in everyday brew, peppermint leaves and as a limited edition for Mother’s Day – chamomile flowers and jasmine pearls). I have tried quite a few of Teapigs teas, and they are all excellent quality. The tea temples are see-through mesh tea bags which are bio-degradable. Put a tea temple in a cup, pour the freshly boiled water and watch how the tea leaves unfurl, it is truly a mini-miracle.

Photo of Teapigs tea & jar bundle is reproduced with kind permission from Teapigs

I love making gingerbread, and have been admiring the art of Biscuiteers for a long time. Every season they come up with new novelty ginger people. Their craftsmanship is superior, and their gingerbread creatures are adorable. Just look at this pretty Fleur Jolly Ginger with an intricately piped bouquet. Simply gorgeous!
And if you were a lucky recipient of Biscuiteers tin of biccies in the past and kept a tin, there is a lovely competition What's In Your Tin, inviting you to submit the photos of how you reuse your Biscuiteers tin. You could win a stunning Venice Collection with the carnival mask, gondola, Lion of St Mark and other iconic Venetian images, all as tasty biscuits, of course.

Photo of Fleur Jolly Ginger is reproduced with kind permission from Biscuiteers
We have tea, we have gingerbread, but if you are a Mum of boys who are always happy to graze, then we need a serious stash of biscuits. Every time we stay in Italy, we buy Mulino Bianco Galletti and Cuore di Mela. On a few occasions we brought them back home with us, but they don't endure the bouncy trips in suitcases easily, and often end up as crumbs. Imagine my delight when I discovered there is a shop called Nife is Life which sells all our favourite Italian cookies and other sweet treats among many other Italian food products here, in the UK. I would stalk them if they start selling the Italian chocolate brand Venchi as well.

From the other foodie gifts, I will never say No to a jar of jam or marmalade from The Artisan Kitchen. I have tried a few of the award-winning The Artisan Kitchen products, and they are all excellent. Believe me, once you finish your toast with Italian Peach & Wild Elderflower Jam, you will lick your fingers and reach for more jam. This delicate sweet jam will make your toast sing. And will transform a plain croissant into a food of gods. That's what the Olympic gods must have been eating.

Talking of beautiful aromas, I recently received a gift of Cocoa Juvenate Revive Hand Cream. Until wonderful Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog nominated me as a blogging Mum to receive a gift from Hotel Chocolat, I didn't know they had a range of cosmetics made with cocoa. I am a firm believer in the moisturising properties of the cocoa butter. When I was pregnant, I used the cocoa butter stick on my tummy religiously. Both of my boys were ten-pounders at birth, yet I didn't get a single stretchmark. I think the cocoa butter helped a lot. I am not keen on very strong-smelling cocoa products, that's why I loved the cocoa butter hand cream from Hotel Chocolat. It has a subtle delicate aroma, and it does a great job of moisturising. The cream absorbs at once and leaves my hands all soft, smooth and nourished. And if you think about it, it's chocolate without the calories. Hosanna!

I have recently come across Premurosa on Twitter, and liked their idea of sending thoughtful letterbox gifts. That sounds marvellous. Who doesn't love nice things coming through their letterbox? As a busy Mum, a proper bath is a bit of a luxury for me (typically I am lucky if nobody knocks on the bathroom door when I have my quick shower). But if I treat myself to a bath, when kids are at school and nursery, then I would love nice smellies like these Lavender bath melts and heart shaped soaps. They are made with organic ingredients. And they would look lovely in any bathroom.

Photo of Lavender bath melts and heart shaped soaps is courtesy of Premurosa

Latest in Beauty is a perfect solution for ladies like me, who love trying new cosmetics and are wary of buying full size products in case they are not to our liking. For Mother's day LiB has released an Ultimate Pampering Beauty Kit which is bursting with gloriously tempting goodies. There is a Face Stockholm lipstick (full size) which will transform you into a Hollywood diva like Liz Taylor, L'Occitane repairing shampoo and conditioner to boost your hair's health, Maddi Alexander bath oil which looks very posh and luxurious, among beauty goodies. The kit is very reasonably priced at £14.95 plus postage.

Photo of Mother's day Ultimate Pampering Beauty Kit is reproduced with kind permission from Latest in Beauty

Books have always been my first love, since a very early age. Books tend to breed in our house, there are so many, we have overflowing book shelves in every room of the house. The Book People is often my first port of call, when I consider buying new books. Their prices are very competitive, and for cook books, for example, are unsurpassable (they often beat the amazon prices). If you subscribe to their newsletter, they have offers of free delivery regularly, and their selection caters to every taste and age. These are some of my recent acquisitions:
When Fraser Met Billy by Louise Booth is a mother's account of the bond between her son Billy who has autism and the rescue cat Fraser.
Delia Smith doesn't need an introduction. This book, Delia's Cakes is simply splendid. You will be licking the pages with photos of stupendous cakes.
I am a big fan of Philippa Gregory, and have most of her books. Her historical fiction is pure escapism. Fools' Gold combines mystery and romance.

Charity shops are another excellent source of books. Just the other day I got Delia' How to Cheat at Cooking for £3.49 (hush, don't tell my husband, I have to hide my cooks books, as he thinks I don't need any more. He's right, of course.)

Many little flower shops and big supermarkets sell potted hyacinths in spring. Once in bloom, the flowers last for a couple of weeks and add so much colour to the house. And the delicate perfume is exquisite. You can plant them in the garden afterwards and be rewarded with the lovely bloom each new spring. I know you are supposed to dig the bulbs out for winter and keep in a dry space, but I haven't done it, yet my hyacinths never fail to reappear in March for the last few years. So, spend three pounds or so, and have your gift give you pleasure for years to come.

Of course, you don't have to spend a penny to make your Mum feel special. Make a card, offer her a cup of her favourite tea or coffee, bake some biscuits, call her if she lives far from you, or help with the house chores if you live together... I will be just as happy with hugs and kisses from my boys.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Marbled eggs

I have discovered a recipe for tea-infused eggs in the Guardian readers' recipe swap back in September (scroll down if you visit the link). I wanted to try it myself, as they sounded marvellously exotic.

In the original recipe you had to boil 6 eggs for 10 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Taking a teaspoon, carefully smack it all over the shell, getting a crackled effect (without peeling them).
Then the fun part begins. Place the eggs in a pan with cold water, and start adding 3tbsp of pu-erh tea, 1 anise seed, a cinnamon stick, 1tbsp of sugar, a couple of garlic cloves and 5 slices of ginger.
Bring the tea with eggs to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 3hours. Keep an eye on the water level, and add more water for the eggs to be covered.
That's exactly how I made them. They looked very pretty, with a marbled effect.

Taste-wise, they were much milder than I expected. They were also slightly sweet. So, I decided to add more spices and cook the remaining eggs for another half hour and then let them infuse overnight.
I added more garlic and ginger as well as a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, plus the peel from the orange and lemon zest.

We had them with hot noodle soup (I used a kit from Waitrose which contains noodles, dried mushrooms and sauce). It was a lovely bowl of soup.

I will make marbled eggs again, especially around Easter time, but will try to experiment with different spices.
It might be a bit time-consuming to cook the eggs, but if you make a big batch, they will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. How about making an egg mayo sandwich with a difference?

Link up your recipe of the week

Also adding my noodle soup with marbled eggs to No Croutons Required linky.